Let's not kid ourselves. Bruce Boudreau was the best coach on the market.
The former Ducks coach won eight division titles in nine years with Anaheim and Washington, has the best regular season win percentage in NHL history and since coming into the league as a head coach, the 61-year-old has only failed to make the postseason one time. The resumé checks out. The Minnesota Wild will have a heck of a bench boss for at least the next four years.
But the Senators did well for themselves on Sunday and Monday afternoon with the signings of Guy Boucher and Marc Crawford. It's clear that the team will be in better hands behind the bench than they have in recent years.
Though both hirings have been rather well received within the Ottawa media and surrounding fan base, there are some valid criticisms. For one, both Boucher and Crawford haven't coached in the NHL for a handful of years. Crawford last coached the Dallas Stars in 2011 when he was fired after failing to make the playoffs for two straight seasons, and Boucher last found himself with an NHL team in 2013 when his tenure with the Tampa Bay Lightning ended in the midst of a second straight disappointing season.
So there's that.
But all throughout yesterday - seriously, he did 17 interviews, a photoshoot and a 40-minute press conference - Boucher was certainly saying the right things.
"Whether it's Mr. Karlsson or any other player, you've got to recognize the great things that they do first. Very often we make that mistake of focusing on the weaknesses, that's all we talk about, and what happens over time is the weaknesses take over the strengths. We have, here, an unbelievable offensive defenseman. He's the best in the league. You've got to cherish that, you've got to respect that and you've got to drive your team with his strengths... What I'm going to ask him is to be outstanding offensively." - Guy Boucher.
Erik Karlsson is the Ottawa Senators. He's the engine that makes them go and he's the hand that rocks the cradle. During the Paul MacLean and Dave Cameron eras, it felt as if Karlsson's importance to the team was a bit misunderstood. The 25-year-old was asked a lot of - as he should be - but sometimes it felt like it was in the wrong areas.
Boucher's idea of how he intends to utilize his Swedish sensation is encouraging. It sounds like he wants to build the team's systems and style of play around his best player, rather than having Karlsson tweak his game to fit better with the team's approach.
From a coaching perspective, that is the best possible way to form a new and improved Senators squad. The characters don't have to change, they just need to be handled differently.
And what does Boucher think of Ottawa's other offensive dynamo?
"There are great assets here. I worked with Mike Hoffman in junior and had him do similar things that I did with Stamkos in Tampa (Bay), and the same thing with Tavares when I had him with Hockey Canada. Those guys are shooters. Definitely, I do have a plan with Mike." - Guy Boucher.
In 2009, 19-year-old Mike Hoffman scored 52 goals in 62 games for the Drummondville Voltigeurs. The coach that season? You guessed it: Guy Boucher.
Hoffman's style of play has barely changed since his days in the QMJHL; he's still the player Boucher once knew. The fact that Boucher is comparing Hoffman to the likes of Steven Stamkos and John Tavares - and he should be - is a promising sign that Ottawa's best goal scorer is going to be employed, first and foremost, as what he is. A goal scorer.
Although there are likely two sides to the story, the 26-year-old was badly mishandled under Cameron. If Hoffman is never taken off the first power play unit, kept away from the fourth line, and not benched in the third period when the team is down one, Boucher will have greatly surpassed Cameron in that area.
Just like with Karlsson, it seems like the Senators' new head coach will be asking a lot offensively of Hoffman. And he definitely should. They're the only players on the team that should be playing the full two minutes on the man advantage.
And speaking of the power play.
"I like an accelerated power play. That's the way I've been teaching it for 20 years... Power play is, more than anything else, details. The minute details for the power play matter for me." - Guy Boucher.
If you talk to anyone that has covered Boucher's teams in the past, they'll tell you one of his best qualities is attention to detail. The Senators' power play felt slow and unorganized last season, so it's important to hear - several times during his press conference - that he does have a plan in place.
Put plainly, Boucher just feels like the right fit.
The 44-year-old's defense oriented style of coaching, with an added respect for Ottawa's obvious offensive repertoire, seems like the perfect balance of knowledge and understanding. The Senators need to be able to run free and be creative in the other team's end, but they also require a well-constructed strategy in their own zone.
It's one of the major things that was missing during Cameron's tenure. The players were asked to defend properly, but it seemed like there was no script to follow and no tactics to enforce.
Boucher is famous for his innovative strategies on defense. The famous 1-3-1 neutral zone trap, along with other formulas, may be a thing of the past, but many critics are confident that he's learned to adapt and evolve with time.
Crawford is an interesting signing, as well. The 55-year-old native of Belleville has had quite a bit of success after he left for Switzerland following his 15-year coaching career in the NHL.
With the ZSC Lions, Crawford won the league championship in 2014 and the Swiss Cup in 2016. He also coached the team to three straight first place finishes in the regular season (2014-2016). Add his triumph overseas to his Stanley Cup ring and his Jack Adams award, and you've got yourself quite the experienced associate coach.
Oh, and he's into analytics.
"I have always been at the forefront of analytics. We utilize statistics for zone time, zone exits, zone entries, scoring chances, momentum swings and of course, shots,hits, giveaways, takeaways, and goals. I have long been a proponent of using the info to develop your practices, to utilize your match ups and to aid in the development of your line combos and D pairings. I am constantly looking for the edge and I do believe that interpreting the data is of more importance than collecting it. Having said that, getting the data collected correctly is of the utmost importance and it proves challenging in a none [sic] conventional hockey market." - Marc Crawford. Today's Slapshot.
Right now, the idea of Boucher and Crawford just seems like a revitalizing presence within the organization.
Pierre Dorion's first move as general manager feels like a step in the right direction. It's a more modern approach. Some are saying Boucher and Crawford behind the bench are the best one-two punch in the nation's capital since Jacques Martin and Roger Neilson more than a decade ago. Although, those are big shoes to fill.
This decision also might be an indication that Dorion isn't afraid to do things differently in Ottawa than we've seen in the past with Bryan Murray.
So the first maneuver is complete. And it's far too early to tell, but it feels like a small success already. As the offseason drags on, we'll learn a lot more about what direction Dorion intends on steering this organization. Hoffman still has to be signed, Cody Ceci needs a contract, there's other free agents to be dealt with and the NHL Draft is looming large.
But we're only midway through May.
So far so good.
How are you feeling with Dorion, Boucher and Crawford at the helm?
|I'll wait and see||80|